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  Napa Valley     [all categories]
  Napa Valley - Wineries to Visit
  April 14th-17th Trip Report

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Author Topic:   April 14th-17th Trip Report
posted 04-19-2011 01:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
Hi Bigsemi,

Sorry to hear about The Dinger. When you lose a pet, sometimes it is harder than losing a family member (if you know what I mean). In the last few years we have lost to cats that were with us for 20 years each.

Great review. I am glad you liked the Stevenson Manor Best Western. Was this your first stay there? Sandra Cady, the front desk manager, really makes it feel like we are returning home when we arrive there. I believe it was last year that she was named "Front Desk Manager of the Year" for BW. The rooms are clean and comfortable and you may save a few bucks to purchase more wine.

Was this your first time at Bennett Lane? Their Maximus, for the price, is very tasty. I think their upper end Cabs are special also.

Thanks for the outstanding report.


posted 04-18-2011 09:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Well Hello and so glad to hear from you!
So sorry about your beloved pet...we lost our Border Collie mix last year and I still have trouble with it some days...she was 14, so her life was long and full, but its hard to lose a good friend. Peace be with you.
Your trip sounds great! Love to hear about the places you go and maybe one day we will give Napa a try...but there is still so much of Sonoma County to cover...


posted 04-18-2011 08:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bigsemi   Click Here to Email bigsemi     Edit/Delete Message
Trip report April 14-17th.

This trip was filled with lots of highs and a couple lows. The lows actually began on Wed the 13th. We awoke that morning ready to get the day done so we could fly out the next morning to Napa. That day my wife was taking her dog ling ling into school for a bath and grooming, normally a crazy snotting, farting, full of piss and vinegar pug mix did not want to get up and romp. She looked terrified and was having a hard time walking. I was worried I had hurt her during the night sleeping. We took her in and got her all groomed and what not, but still she was acting strange, so I left school and took her home. Thursday morning we left on a 7:40 am flight so, we’d not be able to get her to the vet, so we had our house sitter/dog watcher take her in. We said goodbye thinking maybe she hurt her hip or something and need some pain meds. For all of Thursday and Friday morning and afternoon, things kept going from bad to worse. They found a large mass around her heart, they ran a couple tests and there was one last test they could do, but it involved using a needle to get a piece of the mass to test it. We could not do that to her, odds were very bad for her to survive the surgery to remove the mass let alone just trying to get a sample of it. So Friday afternoon we had to do the right thing for Ling Ling and had to let her go. She was my wife’s first real pet that was hers. She was Ling Ling’s person. How she managed to not to be a complete wreck for the whole trip I still don/t know. We had “The Dinger”, as I called her, cremated and will pick up the remains in a day or so. Neither one of us really had a chance to fully break down, I think we will once we get home. It has always been my biggest fear that my dog would be the one to pass on, she is 125 pounds and 11 years old. The hardest part was the Ling Ling was only about 7, we were supposed to have 6-9 more years with her, and she went from going 90 miles an hour every where, to not wanting to move at all in one night. We’ll probably never know what caused to mass(We found out it was lung cancer) or why it suddenly had this strong of an effect on her out of nowhere, when she had shown no signs before. My wife is doing very well considering, it is still hard to talk about, but she is looking once again at the pug rescues around Texas and may have found a little guy she likes, and that will be able to keep my dog Daisy company during the day while we are at work.

I know this is a downer way of starting the report, but it had a big effect on the trip and our group of friends and family that were on the trip with us who knew The Dinger.

Ok, on to the good stuff .

Thursday: We arrived at the new terminal 2 at SFO. It is very nice, lots of great restaurants and shops. You also get 45 minutes of free wifi, which if it was always available we never realized, but were happy to discover it. Picked up the car from Thrifty and headed up to Napa. It was my wife, a friend of hers’, and me. We stopped into Gotts in Napa for a late lunch (burgers and garlic fries were great as usual) and walked around Oxbow market. If you have never been the market has lots of great places to eat, drink, get cupcakes, buy spices, tea, and home decor.

From there we hit Yarns on First, in Napa, stopped at V. Sattui real quick to grab a couple bottles of wine for the room, and say hi to some friends, and another yarn shop in St. Helena. We got a call from my brother, he and one of his good friends were up at the hotel waiting for us, so we headed up to Calistoga to the Best Western Stevenson Manor. It was every bit as great as advertised. Nice rooms, jetted tubs in the bathrooms, steam room, dry sauna, pool, hot tub, great little square in the middle with tables with umbrellas. Wifi worked great. After getting checked in it was about 4:00, so we headed over to Summers winery, very close by, and good wine. We had a blast at Summers! We tasted for almost 90 minutes, talking, joking, lots of 14 yr old boy humor, and very good wine. The Charbono is still the best. It is definitely one of our top five favorite wines, I think everyone in the group ended up with at least one bottle to take home, we bought 3. The tasting fee was waved with purchase. I told everyone we could not have had a better first tasting experience if we tried. Right away all 3 of our guests started to understand why we come to the Valley so often.

From there we headed down Silverado Trail to Napa to give them another view of the valley (It was the first trip for any of them to valley for more than just an afternoon tasting tour). Always a nice drive. We parked in down town and stopped into Down Town Joe’s for dinner. Great in-house beer. I got a Rueben, wife got shrimp, brother got polenta, the polenta was so good, my wife got a small side order, can’t remember what our 2 friends got. After dinner we were all pretty tired from travel and headed back up to Calistoga to call it a night. It was a great first day!

Friday: We got up and went to Palisades Deli for breakfast. An omelet for my wife’s friend, and breakfast burritos for the rest of us. Fueled up with coffee, Mexican mocha, and double espressos we headed to Round Pond for an Olive Oil tasting. We are members there so we got the $25 fee waived for 4 of the 5 of us. This was the 3rd time we’ve done the tasting, and it was just as great as before, our friends all loved it. It is very much worth the $25 tasting fee. Everyone bought a variety of oils, vinegars, and hot sauce. It is a little pricey, but sometimes you get what you pay for, and this is one of those times, as members we get 20% off all purchases, so we just made one big order. I’m sure Hot Air Ballooning over Napa is awesome, but for the price I definitely feel the Olive Oil Tasting at Round Pond is the best non-wine activity in Napa Valley.

From there we went to Rutherford Hill Winery. Another place we are members, unfortunately this was when we had to make the decision to let go of Ling Ling and let her rest. She had given us so much in these last 6 years, it was time for us to do the right thing for her. My wife went down to one of the picnic tables to be alone and made arrangements for her to be cremated. It was very difficult to say the words, but our vet along with us were in agreement it was in her best interest. While my wife made final arrangements for The Dinger, the rest of us headed inside to taste. Another very fun time, we all tasted for free since we are members, the Terlato wines were tasting great, as well as the Malbec, Sangiovese, and Reserve merlot. Several different bottles were purchased with our 20% members discount.

From there we headed down Zin lane and stopped at Raymond Vineyards. Lots of fun photo ops outside. We headed into the Crystal tasting room to check it out, very fun space, but the tastings were just not really exciting to me, so we left and went up Hwy 29 to our home away from home V. Sattui.

Being Hall of Fame Members we get the royal treatment when we taste there. We all tasted for free, and pretty much what ever was open got tried. We stayed up in the main tasting room with our friend Emery, and had a great time. Again everyone figured out really fast why we love V. Sattui so much. Everyone found several wines they liked, but we were waiting to purchase till Saturday evening at the Lobster Fest at V. Sattui, bigger discounts. So we went and grabbed our all time favorite lunch, a bottle of Sparkling Cuvee Rouge, deli meat, a couple loaves of bread, and some of the artichoke cream cheese, and sat out in the picnic area and chowed down. We had a toast to good friends, wine, food, and the passing Ling Ling.

After our late lunch we went back up to the hotel for a little nap before we went out for the evening.

At 6:00 we headed back to Round pond, the winery side this time, for Sunset on the Porch. They have a huge beautiful deck with lots of seating, a fire place and some very beautiful views. We bought a bottle of their Sauv Blanc, and Nebbiolo, to enjoy with some grill cheese bites. It was a great way to start the evening, relaxed conversation, sunset, and vines. At about 8:00 we left to go get dinner. The Rutherford Grill was not too busy, about a 30 minute wait, so we stayed. I wish I had looked at a menu sooner. I was not really feeling $27 for ribs, or $13 for a burger, and neither was anyone else, so we left and went to Pizzaria Tra Vigne, much better. We got 3 pizzas, and my wife got a great fetticni dish with meat sauce. Excellent food, much better prices, and we had lunch for the next day! After a late dinner it was time for bed and headed to the hotel.

Saturday: My brother, wife’s friend, and I drove to Napa to hit Basics Gym to get some training in and sweat out a little alcohol. When we finished and after cleaning up at the hotel, we grabbed a quick breakfast at Palisades and were off to our first tasting of the day. We first stopped at Bennet Lane Winery. Another fun time. We really enjoyed the wine, bought a bottle of Maximus and the 07 Merlot, everyone else picked up a bottle or 2 also. The we got a nice little tour of the winery. It was again as great as advertised.

From there we went to Vincent Arroyo. Really good Syrahs, and Chard, but nothing I could not live without, others from the group bought a couple bottles, and I think we all bought bottles of their balsamic, very sweet and syrupy. We also got a nice little tour, they use Hungarian Barrels for some of their wines. I had never heard of this before, and apparently they impart a lot of the same characteristics as French, but are much cheaper, so I thought that was pretty cool. They also have these awesome wine barrel rocking chairs around the property to sit and relax in. I’m really into rocking chairs and these were really comfortable and being made from old barrels were really cool. They do make them for sale, but shipping to Texas would be a huge kick in the butt. One of these years we’ll have to fly out and drive a Uhual back.

We then went up to Chateau Montelana to wander around the property and relive some Bottle Shock moments. No tasting here just looking around.

It was then back to the hotel to enjoy our leftovers on the patio with a little vino. Nothing better than cold pizza!

While everyone else took a nap to rest up for the party at V. Sattui, my brother and I walked around Calistoga a bit. The visitor center in town has restaurant discounts, and wine tasting discounts. Checked out shops and local real estate, and just shot the breeze in general. After quick showers we all headed down to V. Sattui for the Lobster Fest! The food and wine were great. The Fire Chief in St. Helena is apparently know all over the country and world for his Lobster Boils, and he did not disappoint. The lobsters were great, along with shrimp, corn, garlic heads, sausage, and artichokes. One lobster per person, and the rest was pretty much all you could eat. After dinner it basically turned into a big open house. Lots of tasting stations scattered around the winery grounds, tasting and barrel rooms. There was also a great Zydeco Band playing for dancing. We saw a bunch of fellow members we’ve become friends with, as well as employees of the winery. The only problem, was I think they were victims of their success, there were 500 people at the party. For the dinner it was not a big deal, but once everybody started moving around it was pretty crowed. We still had a really fun time, and as a group we purchased 3 cases of wine.

Sunday: My brother had an 11:00am flight and he had to drop off his friend at his place in San Fran before heading to the airport, so we got up and said goodbye to them, and then got cleaned up and packed up ourselves. One last breakfast at Palisades, a quick stop at V. Sattui to pick up a 12 bottle shipper to pack up the olive oil and wine, and we were off to Oakland. My wife and her friend wanted to hit another yarn store there. After that we drove down to Halfmoon Bay for one last yarn shop and to get lunch at Cunhans Country Store, with lunch in hand we drove the half mile to the beach and enjoyed a picnic lunch watching surfers, and listening to the waves of the Pacific roll in. After lunch it was time to head up Highway 1 to SFO a little early to check bags.

All in all it was a great trip! Our friends had an awesome time, and my wife and I really enjoyed getting to share some of our favorite places with friends and family.


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